This story is set after the girls arrive at the farm, but a few months before Spring. One shot Benjamin and Dorcas.
The girls in the house had always been close friends, but now that they were living together, they were more like sisters. They did their chores together; they helped each other sew new garments from odds and ends Milly had lying about in the house; they came up with new and inventive ways to cook venison, and when they were all out of ideas, they dug up Adam's mother's recipe book. They lay in their beds at night, chatting companionably in the dark, talking about what they would do when they got back to town in the Spring. But as much as they had grown close, there were days when that went all awry. The girls were starting to feel a bit cooped up, and on that particular day, tempers started to fly. It had started with a snide comment Dorcas had made to Martha about taking too long in the bath. It was a reasonable complaint: with only one bath, and limited time, it was expected that everyone wash as quickly as possible. However with tempers already running so short, all the minor irritations that had been under the surface all boiled up and this small comment had snowballed into a full blown argument. Milly had tried to calm them down, but this had only caused Martha to accuse Milly of playing favorites. Sarah had started in on Dorcas too. Dorcas, in a fit of pique, stormed out of the house, stuffing her stockinged feet into her boots as she went, slamming the door behind her. None of the girls followed her; It was clear that she needed some time alone.
Dorcas stomped angrily away from the house, her face boiling, even in the cold air. How dare Martha? she thought, furiously. And for Sarah to take her side! the nerve! She couldn't bear to look at their faces right now. Just being near the house the house filled her with rage. She stomped further from the house, crunching through the snow that reached up to the tops of her boots. Her mind raced, reliving the argument, and thinking of how glad she would be to be away from Martha, and from that infernal cabin. And those boys! They were the ones who had dragged her out of her warm, safe house in the middle of the night, to bring her to this hellish nightmare.
She had been walking for some time, when she noticed how cold she was. She had a shawl held round her shoulders, but no warm coat, or gloves, or hat. It had started to get slightly windy, and it was starting to snow. It was time to turn back whether or not she wanted to. But when she turned around the house was not in sight. She had never been this far from the house before. Now that her anger had cooled off, she was starting to feel very foolish. She wasn't exactly sure where she was, and it was starting to snow in earnest . She was not too concerned though; she had a good idea of the direction she had come, and she could follow her trail in the snow back to the house. As she trudged back, the snow started to fall very heavily. She started to curse her earlier stupidity, and she started to shiver with the cold. She felt a horrible sense of disorientation, and looked down to follow her earlier path, but it was no where to be seen. The snow started to whirl round her in a white blur.
She was very now feeling panicked, but she knew she must be near the house, so she continued on, though not at all sure of the right direction. All of a sudden, she felt her foot slip from under her. She tumbled down a small embankment, yelling as she went. When at last she came to a stop, she was too stunned to move for a second. Then she sat up, and tried to assess the damage. She was wet, the snow was still falling, and she'd never been so cold in her life. Her hands were white and completely numb , although she could see they were bleeding from scratching them as she had fell. She tried to stand up, but an excruciating pain seared through her ankle, and she fell over again into the snow. It was useless, she couldn't walk, she couldn't even stand ...she didn't even know where she was. She tried to huddle into a little ball, trying to keep herself warm, but it didn't seem to make a difference -the wind bit right through her shawl and dress. Dorcas had always thought of herself as a calm- headed person - someone who didn't like to make a fuss. But in this instance, she felt so hopeless, she bent her head over over her knees and sobbed. After a few minutes her sobbing ceased. She was starting to feel sleepy and her whole body felt numb. She stopped shivering; she was too cold to shiver. She knew she mustn't fall asleep, or she would never wake up; she'd been taught that since she was a child. But perhaps if she just closed her eyes for a bit...
It was in that moment, where she heard a faint sound of a man yelling. Her eyes flew open and saw a the outline of a figure walking her way. She felt a surge of relief. The figure came closer - he was jogging up to her - and she could recognise it as Benjamin. He bent down to her, his face a picture of concern. "What are you doin' here, little bird?" he asked, his voice calm and low.
"I ...got lost. I hurt my ankle" she said, gesturing to it. He didn't ask any more questions, but stripped off his fur-lined jacket, and wrapped it around her shoulders. He bent down to look at her ankle, unlacing the top of her boot gently.
"I don't reckon its broken, just a bad sprain." he said, lacing her boot up. He caught her eye and gave her a reassuring smile. "Hold onto my neck" he ordered, lifting her up into her arms as if she weighed nothing. She had never felt so calm and safe than in that moment. She leant against his shirt front. He was radiating heat, like a furnace, even though he he wasn't wearing his coat any longer. She closed her eyes, listening to his strong, slow heartbeat through his shirt. He started walking, and the steady rhythm of it was soothing, and she felt herself drifting to sleep. It was still snowing, but gently now. He looked down and noticed her eyes closed. "Wake up, little bird" he said, gently. "No sleepin' 'till you're warm in bed". Her eyes fluttered open.
"Why do you call me 'little bird'?" she asked, bemused.
He shrugged. "Cos you sing real pretty, just like a bird." he answered.
"You've heard me sing?"
"Sometimes when you're inside doing chores, and I'm outside the house choppin' wood, I hear ya singin'", he admitted, smiling shyly down at her. For some reason, that warmed her heart. She closed her eyes again, leaning against him once more. "No sleepin'!" he repeated, this time a bit more firmly, jiggling her gently in his arms to wake her up. She huffed a bit in frustration, but could see his sense. She was still in danger, as she was still very cold and numb, despite having his coat around her.
"Talk to me", she said. "That will keep me awake." So he did. His voice was low, and soft and comforting. Dorcas had heard him talking to the horses in that same tone, when they were skittish. She supposed she ought to feel offended that he would talk to her in the same way that he would talk to an animal, but strangely, she wasn't. As he carried her through the frozen landscape, in his gentle, reassuring voice, he narrated for her what it would all look like during the Spring. "Over here, there'll be a patch of lilacs, and other there, that's where the owls make their nest for their little ones. And that pond over there, the ducks will be quackin' around, waitin' for Frank and Gid to feed them some crumbs" he chuckled. "Those two always had a soft spot for them ducks".
Dorcas loved listening to him, imagining what this place would look like in a few months. When you'll be home, back in town, she reminded herself. But a part of her wondered what it would be like to stay here. What it would be like to sit out on the porch and look out at the lake every evening. What it would be like to raise a family - teaching her little ones how to read over the kitchen table while she cooked a hearty breakfast, and Benjamin could teach them how to look after all the farm animals, and - and she shook her head in suprise, almost shocked at how easily she had pictured it all.
Benjamin noticed her movement, and look down at her in his arms. "Am I boring you with all my talk?" he asked.
"No. Please keep talking."
"But we're home", he said, smiling down at her.
"We are?" She looked up to see they were almost at the porch of the house. The sky had cleared up, and the sun was shining through what was left of the clouds. The front door burst open, and Milly came running out. "Is she alright?!" she asked Benjamin, her voice frantic.
Benjamin nodded. "She'll be fine, she's got a twisted ankle and she needs warmin' up." Milly nodded, and gestured for Benjamin to bring her inside, through to the girls shared bedroom. He walked through to the room. "Which bed is yours?" he asked, and Dorcas gestured with her head towards her bed. "That's mine!" he said, grinning. And then he blushed pink and went a bit quiet and shy, and laid her down in her bed, while Milly helped to pull the blankets over her. The other girls, hearing that Dorcas was back, rushed in all at once to see her. There was a flurry of activity as they took turns running about getting extra blankets, and hot soup for her, and bombarding her with questions. Benjamin, seeing that he was no longer of use, quietly ducked out of the room, leaving her to her friend's attentions.
Martha was so pleased to have Dorcas back, that not a word was spoken about their argument, and she waited on her hand and foot. The next day, Dorcas was still in bed, her ankle still too painful to walk on, but improving rapidly. Benjamin appeared at the bedroom doorway, his large frame slightly hunched to allow him entry. "Can I come in?" he asked. Dorcas nodded slowly, trying not to seem too eager, but inwardly delighted to see him. "I just...wanted to see how you were", he said.
"Doing better." she smiled. "I never got a chance yesterday to say thank you. I'm so grateful to you. For saving me, I mean." She looked down at her hands, feeling shy all of a sudden. "I could have died, and all because of my own foolishness." she added, a note of self reproach in her voice.
"No. Not because of your own foolishness" he said, and she looked up at him in surprise. She had expected him to agree with her, and give her a safety lecture, as Milly had done that morning. "I'm the one who brought you out here. I'm the one that... kidnapped you." he said, his tone full of regret."If something had happened to you out here... I would never have forgiven myself. How could I?" his voice grew hoarse, and he looked down in silence.
"You made a mistake" she said. " But when you rescued me... I've never felt so safe". Their gazes locked as she spoke, and his eyes, previously tired and resigned, lit up with hope.
"That's all I want." he said, his voice earnest. "To make you feel safe...for as long as you'll let me."